Driving with excess alcohol

Driving with excess alcohol

As motorists, we all know that driving with excess alcohol is against the law.

  • But how much is ‘too much’?
  • How long does alcohol stay in our system?
  • How do we know if it is safe to drive after having a drink?

It is surprisingly easy to commit a drink driving-related offence without realising you’re actually over the limit.

This is particularly common during the Christmas and New Year party season.

With this in mind, check out the top reasons why many motorists fail to realise they’re over the limit:

The time it takes the body to process a unit of alcohol means that a second drink can have a bigger impact on blood alcohol content than the first.

This is because it can’t start processing the second drink until it has finished processing the first. In the meantime, alcohol builds up in the bloodstream.

Likewise, drinking a pint of beer quickly can lead to a larger build-up of alcohol in the bloodstream than drinking the same amount more slowly, giving time for the body to begin processing the alcohol.

There might be hardly any difference in the appearance and taste of a four per cent pint of beer, compared with a five per cent version.

But consider this: although there’s only one percentage point difference in alcohol content there is 25 per cent more alcohol in a five per cent beer!

That can really add up, especially when you take into account the ‘second drink effect’

A few years ago it was nearly impossible to find a nine per cent beer in a bar or pub. With the rise of craft breweries, they are now commonplace. It can be much more difficult to gauge the effect this is having on you and can quickly raise your blood alcohol content. The same applies to gin, which has also seen an explosion in popularity in recent years.

While levels of alcohol in food are generally very low and you would have to eat a vast amount to end up over the limit, the ‘second drink effect’ still applies. If your body is still processing alcohol that you have drunk, any extra alcohol you consume in food will go straight into your bloodstream - with the potential of putting you over the limit.

You don’t actually have to drive to be at risk of committing a drink-driving related offence. You don’t necessarily even need to be in a vehicle!

If you were to go to your vehicle in a public place while holding the keys, in order to remove your coat from the boot, you could potentially be at risk of a conviction for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.

Likewise, you could be convicted if you were sitting in the back seat of a stationary vehicle with the keys in your possession.

There is increasing awareness of the risk of still being over the limit the next day. In recent years the police have been carrying out high-profile Christmas drink driving campaigns that focus on morning commuters.

However, these pitfalls can also work together. Someone who might normally have six pints of four per cent beer in the evening, who has the same amount of five per cent beer instead, is effectively drinking an extra pint on top of what they would normally drink. Coupled with the ‘second drink effect’, this could have a major impact on blood alcohol content the next morning.

We hope these tips will help you to stay safe and keep your licence.

How much is too much?

In England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath or 107 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of urine.

If you are driving in Scotland or Europe, it is important to be aware that the limit is less.

What happens if I am found to be over the limit?

If you should fail a roadside breath test, evidence of your alcohol level will need to be gathered at the police station, via a breath, blood or urine specimen.

You can also be prosecuted for failing to supply a sample, or if you were in charge of a stationary vehicle while over the limit.

If you wish to plead not guilty, then specialist legal advice is vital. We can help you identify potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, including inappropriate police behaviour.

We can also negotiate in cases where you plead guilty, or are found guilty, for more lenient sentencing.

To find out more about how we can help you, please contact us.

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